Channel 4 turns 30: relive the first day on air

From Countdown to The Comic Strip Presents, we revisit the original 1982 schedule as C4 celebrates three decades of broadcasting

Welcome to November 2 1982: Culture Club are at number one for the second week running with Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? and Margaret Thatcher is three years into her first term as Prime Minister. It’s 4:40pm and, having finished your daily Rubik’s Cube workout, you’re sitting in front of the telly with a packet of Spangles and a refreshing Soda Stream drink about to experience a new (late afternoon) dawn in British television broadcasting – the launch of Channel 4.


16:40 Welcome to Channel 4

“Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be able to say to you ‘Welcome to Channel 4’,” announces Paul Coia, before introducing a montage of the shows viewers can supposedly expect to see on the new channel.

Excerpts of travelogues from far flung places, sweeping wildlife documentaries, arts programming and period dramas all flash across the screen, accompanied by the extended version of the channel’s theme, Fourscore – and then Countdown begins…

16:45 Countdown 

The first ever episode of the words and numbers game – still going strong 30 years on – was introduced in inimitable style by the late, great Richard Whiteley, who told viewers “As the countdown to a brand new channel ends, a brand new Countdown begins…”

17:15 Preview 4 

Highlights of the week ahead on Channel 4.

17:30 The Body Show 

Series demonstrating some of the simple exercises used by dancers to help them stay in shape. 

18:00 The People’s Court 

A bald tyre and a rollerskate were the subjects of the first edition of this US import, a precursor to Judge Judy, which saw real legal cases settled in front of the cameras in an LA courtroom.

18:30 Book Four

Reviews of the best new books – but who wants to read a book when you have four channels of TV to choose from? 

19:00 Channel Four News

A lot has changed in 30 years – but then again… Peter Sissons introduced the first ever Channel Four News with the top story “Thatcher plans her biggest-ever public spending squeeze.”

20:00 Brookside 

Channel 4’s Liverpool-set soap kicked off with just six households and 16 characters – inlcuding the Grant (or should that be Royle) family, Sue Johnston and Ricky Tomlinson.

Watch the opening credits from the first ever episode, complete with that nostalgic synth-filled theme tune. 

20:30 The Paul Hogan Show 

He had yet to make it really big with Crocodile Dundee, but Australian comic Paul Hogan was already known to British audiences as the laconic Aussie from the Foster’s beer ads.

His irreverent sketch show was 4’s first primetime offering – unfortunately, not much of it features in this clip, which instead gives us a chance to sample the ads that aired during the break.

21:00 Film on Four: Walter 

A far cry from Gandalf, Ian McKellen played a mentally handicapped man struggling to cope with the trauma of losing his parents, and his subsequent enforced move to an institution, in this film from director Stephen Frears.

22:15 The Comic Strip Presents….. Five Go Mad in Dorset 

Adrian Edmonson, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Peter Richardson starred in the first entry in the popular series of comedy spoofs, a ripping Enid Blyton-inspired yarn.

22:45 In the Pink 

Feminist cabaret group the Raving Beauties performed an act celebrating the lives of women. Apparently, 2,000 viewers subsequently wrote in to ask where they could find the poems featured. 

23:50 Close 


Including a look ahead to tomorrow’s programmes.